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Blaming the poor for the crimes of the rich

Started by Geolibertarian, Dec 22, 2013, 01:00:54 PM

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Note: Since I continue to hear economic right-wingers parrot the self-serving myth that the financial meltdown which began in 2008 is primarily the result of "deadbeat borrowers" [read: poor people] taking out loans on things they couldn't afford, I thought I'd post for everyone's thoughtful consideration the following:



Subprime Suspects
The right blames the credit crisis on poor minority homeowners. This is not merely offensive, but entirely wrong.

By Daniel Gross
Slate Magazine
Oct. 7, 2008

We've now entered a new stage of the financial crisis: the ritual assigning of blame. It began in earnest with Monday's congressional roasting of Lehman Bros. CEO Richard Fuld and continued on Tuesday with Capitol Hill solons delving into the failure of AIG. On the Republican side of Congress, in the right-wing financial media (which is to say the financial media), and in certain parts of the op-ed-o-sphere, there's a consensus emerging that the whole mess should be laid at the feet of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the failed mortgage giants, and the Community Reinvestment Act, a law passed during the Carter administration. The CRA, which was amended in the 1990s and this decade, requires banks—which had a long, distinguished history of not making loans to minorities—to make more efforts to do so.

The thesis is laid out almost daily on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, in the National Review, and on the campaign trail. John McCain said yesterday, "Bad mortgages were being backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it was only a matter of time before a contagion of unsustainable debt began to spread." Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer provides an excellent example, writing that "much of this crisis was brought upon us by the good intentions of good people." He continues: "For decades, starting with Jimmy Carter's Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, there has been bipartisan agreement to use government power to expand homeownership to people who had been shut out for economic reasons or, sometimes, because of racial and ethnic discrimination. What could be a more worthy cause? But it led to tremendous pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—which in turn pressured banks and other lenders—to extend mortgages to people who were borrowing over their heads. That's called subprime lending. It lies at the root of our current calamity." The subtext: If only Congress didn't force banks to lend money to poor minorities, the Dow would be well on its way to 36,000. Or, as Fox Business Channel's Neil Cavuto put it, "I don't remember a clarion call that said: Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster."

Let me get this straight. Investment banks and insurance companies run by centimillionaires blow up, and it's the fault of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and poor minorities?

These arguments are generally made by people who read the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and ignore the rest of the paper—economic know-nothings whose opinions are informed mostly by ideology and, occasionally, by prejudice. Let's be honest. Fannie and Freddie, which didn't make subprime loans but did buy subprime loans made by others, were part of the problem. Poor Congressional oversight was part of the problem. Banks that sought to meet CRA requirements by indiscriminately doling out loans to minorities may have been part of the problem. But none of these issues is the cause of the problem. Not by a long shot. From the beginning, subprime has been a symptom, not a cause. And the notion that the Community Reinvestment Act is somehow responsible for poor lending decisions is absurd.

Here's why.



Blaming The Poor For Wall Street's Mess: The Game Continues

By Bob Ryley
May 25, 2009

Being a political junkie I'm on a lot of mailing lists. A day hardly passes when my mailbox doesn't contain something "political" from one or more advocacy groups. A recent arrival provides a good example of how the right has a problem sorting out facts from fiction when it comes to factors that caused the current financial crisis.

I received the Spring 2009 issue of Cato's Letter published by the nonprofit organization bearing the same name. Of course, this is a "non-profit" that many "for-profit" capitalists like to support because of their unfettered advocacy of free-market economics, limited to no government intervention in the markets, and some civil liberty advocacy thrown in for window dressing.

The current issue of the newsletter contained an article titled "In Defense of Doing Nothing" by Jeffrey Miron. Jeffrey's Widipedia page tells us that he is an outspoken libertarian, former chairman of the Economics Department at Boston University, and currently a professor at Harvard. Quite impressive.

In his Cato Letter article Jeffrey claims that among many factors leading to the current banking and financial crisis, the primary cause was government programs to encourage new home ownership. Miron discusses what he calls "mild interventions" by government to create more first-time homeowners. Then he delivers the kicker. Here are his own words:

"Over time howerver, these mild interventions began to focus on increased home ownership for lower income households. In the 1990s the Department of Housing and Urban Development ramped up pressure on lenders to support affordable housing. In 2003, accounting scandals at Fannie and Freddie allowed key members of Congress to pressure these institutions into substantial risky mortgage lending.. By 2003-2004, therefore, federal policies were generating strong incentives to extend mortgages to borrowers with poor credit characteristics. Financial institutions responded and created huge quantities of assets based on risky mortgage debt."

This exact quote from Miron's article is a text book example of how the right wing invents a distorted reality and gives it credibility by using a non-profit think tank and the presumed expertise of a professor to make it the commentary of a "expert" in the field. If a Harvard professor said it, it must be true. Harvard professor or not, I think we need to look at some facts.

In his new book "The 86 Biggest Lies on Wall Street" author John Talbott described the 2003 versions of Fannie and Freddie as "over-extended and poorly managed." The worst part of the housing bubble, the part that was created by those "huge quantities of assets based on risky mortgage debt" occurred between 2003 and 2006. Fannie and Freddie were largely on the sidelines during this period. Think about that. During the period when most of the questionable loans were made, Fannie and Freddie were on the sidelines.

Further, those "newly created assets" were actually pieces of paper known as Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs). This is a fancy name for a bundle of sub-prime and other loans packaged up and sold to hungry (some might say greedy) investors looking to rake in big profits. Here's the kicker. According to Talbott, loans backed by Fannie and Freddie were, by definition, not sub-prime because they were basically insured.

More importantly, CDOs were Wall Street's invention pure and simple. No government agency pushed the financial industry to create this tool for speculation. Further, no government institution pressued private bond rating agencies to blindly give their seal of approval to such investments. In this case, Wall Street did it to itself. Unfortunately, they were able to use their influence to send the taxpayers the bill for bailing them out.

When you realize this it becomes clear that Miron's whole thesis is claptrap. The big joke in all this is the notion that Fannie, Freddie and other government institutions were pushed by liberal politicians to make risky loans. In fact, almost the exact opposite was true. Both institutions engaged in heavy lobbying, and made over $150 million in campaign contributions to members of Congress to, as John Talbott suggests, get less, not more, regulation and oversight from the government. The government didn't push Fannie and Freddie to do anything. But the execs of these two private "for profit" companies did use their enormous financial power to keep regulators at bay.

This explains how myths and distortions work their way into daily discourse among pundits and politicians and then work they way down and often become part of the public's perception of "conventional wisdom."



Finance 101: Blame the Poor
(While Taking Their Money)

By Gordon Arnaut
Information Clearing House
May 12, 2010

Did you know that the poor (and mostly black) people in the US caused the global financial crisis that threw the world economy into its worst slump since the Great Depression of the 1930's?

I didn't know that either, until I heard this news from the US media and popular broadcasters like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

This is how it all happened: Special interest groups representing poor people, minorities, and "socialist" elements in the US government "pressured banks to make loans to people who could not afford them, and then the whole thing melted down..." explains Beck, who has a radio and TV audience of several million viewers and listeners.

Thomas Sowell, a right-wing economist for the Hoover Institution and a writer for the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine, says that anti-poverty activists "blocked drive-up lanes and made business impossible for banks until they surrendered to demands that they make billions in loans that they wouldn't otherwise have made."

God Bless America. The land where truth and freedom prevails.

The only thing I don't understand is how these poor, black and Hispanic Americans, whose combined share of the national wealth is less than the personal fortune of a few wealthy individuals at the top of the Forbes list, could possibly have exerted such a disproportionate influence on the nation's economy.

Statistics from the United Nations tell us that the bottom 40 percent of the population of the United States own less than 1 percent of the nation's wealth. That is about 120 million people. If each and every one of these individuals "forced" the banks to give them mortgages and loans, and then failed to pay them back, the worst that could happen would be a total national loss of 1 percent of wealth.

Is this what happened? That 120 million poor Americans all simultaneously defaulted on their mortgage and loan payments and the economy collapsed because of a 1 percent decline?

Or perhaps the collapse had more to do with the top 1 percent of Americans who own 38 percent of the national wealth? If we do a bit of simple math we see that a member of that top 1 percent—about 3 million wealthy Americans—owns, on average, about 1,500 times as much as a member of the bottom 120 million Americans. Put another way, about 1,500 poor people share a single piece of pie that one wealthy American has all to himself.

Also curious are numbers on who actually lost the most in this Great Recession. According to a study by a professor at the University of California, the average American household lost an astounding 36 percent of their total wealth. But the top 1 percent households lost only 11 percent. So the net result is that the wealth distribution is even more unequal than it was it was before the financial crisis. Maybe the top 1 percent should be thanking the poor black folks for "causing" the financial meltdown.

What we do know for sure is that the US government has given more than a trillion taxpayer dollars to big banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, to prevent them from going under. This has led to huge deficits, which has brought demands from the wealthy that the government cut back on social security and Medicare. So while the bank executives continue to reward themselves with multimillion dollar bonuses at the taxpayer's expense, poor pensioners—who you will see at the grocery store buying marked-down, half-rotten fruit and vegetables—are asked do get by without their medicines and live on bread and water.

Of course the plight of the poor, the sick and the old is of no concern to the slick business media, with their glossy spreads of the "good life" and fawning write-ups of the business elite whose lifestyles would make Marie Antoinette blush—an army of servants, chauffeurs, pilots, prostitutes, maids, cooks, valets, butlers, masseuses, caddies, surgeons...at their beck and call.


"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George



For those who don't remember (or were never familiar with) this story, check out the following article:



'I find cheap populism oddly arousing' Stewart mocks CNBC

by David Edwards and Rachel Oswald
The Raw Story
March 5, 2009

Daily Show host Jon Stewart took aim Wednesday at newly minted populist and former derivatives trader Rick Santelli, after he abruptly canceled a guest appearance on his show.

Stewart delighted his audience by running through a stream of bad business predictions by Santelli's own network, CNBC.

Santelli recently garnered conservative applause for a televised rant against President Obama's proposal to help homeowners in danger of loosing their homes through foreclosure.

"Yea, man, Wall Street is mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore, unless by it you mean $2 trillion dollars in their own bailout money. That they will take," Stewart sarcastically opined.

Stewart then got his audience riled up over calls for Santelli to come on his show.

"How many people would have liked to see Santelli come on this program?," called Stewart to rousing cheers from the audience. "Are you listening Rick Santelli?"

Joked Stewart, "I have to say I find cheap populism oddly arousing."

"So to all you dumb-ass homeowners out there who let your optimism and bad judgment blind you to accepting money that was offered to you by banks – educate yourselves," Stewart said, in a mockery of comments made by Santelli.

Stewart followed this statement with scenes of some choice reporting by CNBC where commentators and reporters were shown to be heralding the strength of banks like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch not long before they went under and predicting the rebounding of the financial markets last year, though they continued to steadily decline.

"It's not rocket science homeowners. It's apparently alchemy," Stewart said. "You just had to tune into CNBC shows."



Santelli's "televised rant" was quite revealing, and not just for what it said, but for what it conveniently omitted. This becomes obvious when one considers a few basic facts.

Take the issue of subprime mortgages. How large was the subprime mortgage bubble before the financial meltdown of 2008?

While searching for the answer to that question, I consistently found information such as the following:

"Total subprime mortgage debt outstanding is about $1.3 trillion." -- http://www.cavinessfinancial.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=64&Itemid=1

"Although subprime and other risky mortgages were relatively rare before the mid-1990s, their use increased dramatically during the subsequent decade. In 2001, newly originated subprime, Alt-A, and home equity lines (second mortgages or "sec­onds") totaled $330 billion and amounted to 15 per­cent of all new residential mortgages. Just three years later, in 2004, these mortgages accounted for almost $1.1 trillion in new loans and 37 percent of residen­tial mortgages. Their volume peaked in 2006 when they reached $1.4 trillion and 48 percent of new res­idential mortgages." -- http://www.heritage.org/research/economy/bg2127.cfm

Now, if, as some keep insisisting, the financial crisis is entirely (or at least primarily) the fault of subprime mortgages, then how does one explain this?



Cost Of Bailout Hits A Whopping $24 Trillion Dollars

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
Monday, July 20, 2009

According to the watchdog overseeing the federal government's financial bailout program, the full exposure since 2007 amounts to a whopping $23.7 trillion dollars, or $80,000 for every American citizen.

The last time we were able to get a measure of the total cost of the bailout, it stood at around $8.5 trillion dollars. Eight months down the line and that figure has almost tripled.

The $23.7 trillion figure comprises "about 50 initiatives and programs set up by the Bush and Obama administrations as well as by the Federal Reserve," according to the Associated Press.



If the subprime mortgage bubble was never any higher than $1.4 trillion, then why is the cost of the "bailout" so much higher?

Could it be that certain people don't want us asking that question, since an honest search for the true answer inevitably brings one face-to-face with the derivatives bubble?

And could it also be that the reason these same people consistently refuse to even mention the word "derivatives" is that derivatives are entirely the creation of Wall Street speculators, and so cannot be attributed to any of the unwise borrowing decisions that cash-strapped wage-earners may have made -- and are thus of no public relations value to those intent on scapegoating the poor for the crimes of the rich?

Read the following and decide for yourself:



Ellen Brown, September 18, 2008

"I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men."
– Sir Isaac Newton, after losing a fortune in the South Sea bubble

Something extraordinary is going on with these government bailouts.  In March 2008, the Federal Reserve extended a $55 billion loan to JPMorgan to "rescue" investment bank Bear Stearns from bankruptcy, a highly controversial move that tested the limits of the Federal Reserve Act.  On September 7, 2008, the U.S. government seized private mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and imposed a conservatorship, a form of bankruptcy; but rather than let the bankruptcy court sort out the assets among the claimants, the Treasury extended an unlimited credit line to the insolvent corporations and said it would exercise its authority to buy their stock, effectively nationalizing them.  Now the Federal Reserve has announced that it is giving an $85 billion loan to American International Group (AIG), the world's largest insurance company, in exchange for a nearly 80% stake in the insurer . . . .

The Fed is buying an insurance company?  Where exactly is that covered in the Federal Reserve Act?  The Associated Press calls it a "government takeover," but this is not your ordinary "nationalization" like the purchase of Fannie/Freddie stock by the U.S. Treasury.  The Federal Reserve has the power to print the national money supply, but it is not actually a part of the U.S. government.  It is a private banking corporation owned by a consortium of private banks.  The banking industry just bought the world's largest insurance company, and they used federal money to do it.  Yahoo Finance reported on September 17:

    "The Treasury is setting up a temporary financing program at the Fed's request. The program will auction Treasury bills to raise cash for the Fed's use. The initiative aims to help the Fed manage its balance sheet following its efforts to enhance its liquidity facilities over the previous few quarters."

Treasury bills are the I.O.U.s of the federal government.  We the taxpayers are on the hook for the Fed's "enhanced liquidity facilities," meaning the loans it has been making to everyone in sight, bank or non-bank, exercising obscure provisions in the Federal Reserve Act that may or may not say they can do it.  What's going on here?  Why not let the free market work?  Bankruptcy courts know how to sort out assets and reorganize companies so they can operate again.  Why the extraordinary measures for Fannie, Freddie and AIG?  

The answer may have less to do with saving the insurance business, the housing market, or the Chinese investors clamoring for a bailout than with the greatest Ponzi scheme in history, one that is holding up the entire private global banking system.  What had to be saved at all costs was not housing or the dollar but the financial derivatives industry; and the precipice from which it had to be saved was an "event of default" that could have collapsed a quadrillion dollar derivatives bubble, a collapse that could take the entire global banking system down with it.

The Anatomy of a Bubble

Until recently, most people had never even heard of derivatives; but in terms of money traded, these investments represent the biggest financial market in the world.  Derivatives are financial instruments that have no intrinsic value but derive their value from something else.  Basically, they are just bets.  You can "hedge your bet" that something you own will go up by placing a side bet that it will go down.  "Hedge funds" hedge bets in the derivatives market.  Bets can be placed on anything, from the price of tea in China to the movements of specific markets.  

"The point everyone misses," wrote economist Robert Chapman a decade ago, "is that buying derivatives is not investing.  It is gambling, insurance and high stakes bookmaking.  Derivatives create nothing."  They not only create nothing, but they serve to enrich non-producers at the expense of the people who do create real goods and services.  In congressional hearings in the early 1990s, derivatives trading was challenged as being an illegal form of gambling.  But the practice was legitimized by Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who not only lent legal and regulatory support to the trade but actively promoted derivatives as a way to improve "risk management."  Partly, this was to boost the flagging profits of the banks; and at the larger banks and dealers, it worked.  But the cost was an increase in risk to the financial system as a whole.

Since then, derivative trades have grown exponentially, until now they are larger than the entire global economy.  The Bank for International Settlements recently reported that total derivatives trades exceeded one quadrillion dollars – that's 1,000 trillion dollars.  How is that figure even possible?  The gross domestic product of all the countries in the world is only about 60 trillion dollars.  The answer is that gamblers can bet as much as they want.  They can bet money they don't have, and that is where the huge increase in risk comes in.    

Credit default swaps (CDS) are the most widely traded form of credit derivative.  CDS are bets between two parties on whether or not a company will default on its bonds.  In a typical default swap, the "protection buyer" gets a large payoff from the "protection seller" if the company defaults within a certain period of time, while the "protection seller" collects periodic payments from the "protection buyer" for assuming the risk of default.  CDS thus resemble insurance policies, but there is no requirement to actually hold any asset or suffer any loss, so CDS are widely used just to increase profits by gambling on market changes.  In one blogger's example, a hedge fund could sit back and collect $320,000 a year in premiums just for selling "protection" on a risky BBB junk bond. The premiums are "free" money – free until the bond actually goes into default, when the hedge fund could be on the hook for $100 million in claims.  

And there's the catch: what if the hedge fund doesn't have the $100 million?  The fund's corporate shell or limited partnership is put into bankruptcy; but both parties are claiming the derivative as an asset on their books, which they now have to write down.  Players who have "hedged their bets" by betting both ways cannot collect on their winning bets; and that means they cannot afford to pay their losing bets, causing other players to also default on their bets.  

The dominos go down in a cascade of cross-defaults that infects the whole banking industry and jeopardizes the global pyramid scheme.  The potential for this sort of nuclear reaction was what prompted billionaire investor Warren Buffett to call derivatives "weapons of financial mass destruction."  It is also why the banking system cannot let a major derivatives player go down, and it is the banking system that calls the shots.  The Federal Reserve is literally owned by a conglomerate of banks; and Hank Paulson, who heads the U.S. Treasury, entered that position through the revolving door of investment bank Goldman Sachs, where he was formerly CEO.  


"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




In hard times, Americans blame the poor

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said last month that when the government helps the poor, it's like people feeding stray animals that continually "breed."

By Alfred Lubrano
The Philadelphia Inquirer
February 22, 2010


South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said last month that when the government helps the poor, it's like people feeding stray animals that continually "breed."

And Colorado state legislator Spencer Swalm this month said poor people in single-family homes are "dysfunctional."

Both statements riled some Americans and underscored a widely held belief: In tough times, people are tough on the poor.

In an April 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center, 72 percent agreed with the statement that "poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs." That's up from 69 percent in 2007.

"The economic downturn has made the middle class less generous toward others," said Guy Molyneux, a partner at Hart Research Associates, a Washington, D.C., firm that researches attitudes toward the poor. "People are less supportive of the government helping the poor, because they feel they're not getting enough help themselves.

"It's a divided country, splitting on a fault line — those who think the poor are poor because they don't try enough, and those who think the poor simply need help."

Matt Wray, a sociologist at Temple University, agreed: "Hatred of the poor is fueled by the middle class's fear of falling during hard times."

Americans don't understand how the poor are victimized by a lack of jobs, inefficient schools and unsafe neighborhoods, experts say.

"People ignore the structural issues — jobs leaving, industry becoming more mechanized," said Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson, renowned for his study of the Philadelphia poor. "Then they point to the poor and ask, 'Why aren't you making it?'"

Americans tend to blame the victim, according to Angela Sutton, 33, of Northeast Philadelphia. "People think we like mooching off the system, and don't see the circumstances that put us here," said Sutton, who was shot in the stomach at 14 and raped by a relative the next year while growing up in North Philadelphia.

A former welfare recipient, Sutton is an unmarried mother of two children living on disability insurance and food stamps. "They think we're lazy and want a free ride."

Talk radio has especially galvanized against the poor.

In June, conservative Rush Limbaugh denigrated food stamps, which hunger experts have said are vital to poor children.

With "food care," as Limbaugh put it, the "obese" poor "buy Twinkies, Milk Duds, potato chips, six-packs of Bud, then head home to watch the NFL on one of two color TVs and turn off their cellphones, and that's poverty in the U.S." (What he didn't say is that food stamps can't be used to buy alcoholic beverages.)

Underlying negative attitudes toward the poor, experts say, are prejudices toward minorities, disproportionately among the indigent.

Twenty-five percent of African Americans, 23 percent of Latinos and 9 percent of whites live in poverty. Overall, 13 percent of the U.S. population is poor.

The United States "is very heterogeneous with very little ability to empathize with groups that are poor," Washington economist Isabel Sawhill said. That general lack of empathy can inspire anger toward the poor, especially from the right, experts say.

"It's easier to send money to Haiti because you don't have to relate to them directly," said Mariana Chilton, hunger expert and professor of public health at Drexel University.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Bauer not only American blaming the poor
Economic downturn makes middle class less generous

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Feb. 23, 2010

Last month, S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said that when the government helps the poor, it's like people feeding stray animals that continually "breed."

And this month, Colorado state legislator Spencer Swalm said poor people in single-family homes are "dysfunctional."

Both statements riled some Americans from the Piedmont to the Rockies and underscored a widely held belief: In tough times, people are tough on the poor.

In an April 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center in Washington, 72 percent agreed with the statement that "poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs." That's up from 69 percent in 2007.

"It's easier to send money to Haiti because you don't have to relate to them directly," said Mariana Chilton, a professor of public health at Drexel University.

The economic downturn has made the middle class less generous, said Guy Molyneux, a partner at Hart Research Associates, a Washington firm that researches attitudes toward the poor.

"People are less supportive of the government helping the poor, because they feel they're not getting enough help themselves," he said.

Matt Wray, a sociologist at Temple University, said these feelings stem from a new vulnerability: "Hatred of the poor is fueled by the middle class's fear of falling during hard times."

Americans don't understand how the poor are victimized by a lack of jobs, inefficient schools and unsafe neighborhoods, experts say.

"People ignore the structural issues - jobs leaving, industry becoming more mechanized," said Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson. "Then they point to the poor and ask, 'Why aren't you making it?'"

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Scapegoating the Poor

Let's start blaming the plutocrats, not their victims

by Ed Finn
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
May 1, 2010

There's an old African proverb that is becoming uncomfortably apt to apply to human behaviour in Canada: "As the waterhole gets smaller, the animals get meaner."

In other words, as the food, water, and other basic resources dwindle, so does the willingness to share. The sense of community and cooperation is replaced by an ugly survival-of-the-fittest mentality.

A big difference, however, exists between what happens at a shrinking waterhole in Africa and what happens in Canada when jobs disappear, incomes fall or stagnate, and government services are cut back. The African waterhole gets smaller because there's a drought; it's a natural and unavoidable disaster. In Canadian society, however, the necessities of life for the weakest among us are being deliberately reduced or withheld.

Our welfare "waterhole" is being systematically siphoned away, its contents transferred from the pockets of the poor into the bank accounts and stock portfolios of the rich.

There is no shortage of money in Canada. Our GDP — the country's entire financial output — has doubled since the 1970s. Corporate executives and major investors still wallow in wealth, much of it coming from taxpayer-funded government bailouts. The big banks still post record profits. Our billionaires may have lost a few million in the financial meltdown, may even have to delay buying their next yacht or private jet, but they know their fortunes are secure and will continue to grow.

A barbaric maldistribution of income that leaves millions of their fellow citizens destitute doesn't bother them in the least. As long as the income needed to help the neediest is diverted to them instead, they will make sure their political lackeys block any proposed reforms.

In the past, picking on the weak and poor was not something that could be done with impunity. Prior to the onset of corporate globalization and neoliberalism, most people — even many of the rich themselves — would be shocked by today's obscenely inequitable distribution of income and the widespread misery it inflicts. Today, however, as food is snatched out of the mouths of hungry kids, many people shrug it off as an unavoidable (if regrettable) part of the capitalist system.

As for the commercial media, instead of exposing and deploring the plight of the hundreds of thousands mired in poverty, they either ignore them or maliciously search for and denounce the few people on welfare who are abusing the system. Although they are clearly the exceptions, they are depicted as typical "welfare bums," too lazy to work and content to live parasitically off the hard work of others.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Blaming the Poor is as American as Apple Pie

Campus Progress
July 17th, 2010

Jamelle Bouie wrote a really interesting post called "Poor Bashing: the New American Pastime." The post provides a good window into one of the most shameful aspects of our nation's political culture: The callous attitude toward impoverished citizens.

An excerpt:

    Not to belabor the point, but it really seems like there is a growing callousness and hostility to the poor and disadvantaged in our society....What's strange, and offensive, is this belief that we should cut unemployment benefits because, in Sen. Diane Feinstein's words, "how long do you continue (unemployment benefits) before people just don't want to go back to work at all?" Conservatives have joined in on poor-bashing too; Sen. Orrin Hatch has proposed mandatory drug tests for those receiving unemployment insurance — because everyone knows that unemployed people are drug addicts — and there's been a recent spate of conservative writers attacking food and nutrition aid to poor kids.

    Exactly, the real problem isn't the long-term unemployment crisis — which could leave a huge class of people without the necessary skills to work — it's those bums too lazy to save their jobs from the financial crisis. If those people didn't want to be unemployed, they should have never worked in the first place, and if those kids didn't want to be hungry, they should have had the wherewithal not to be born so damn poor, or something.

My only quibble with Bouie's piece is that blaming the poor for their condition isn't a "new pastime". Here is an 1809 explanation for poverty from the puritanical Humane Society: "by a just and inflexible law of Providence, misery is ordained to be the companion and punishment of vice." One hundred years later Baptist preacher Walter Rauschenbusch proclaimed that providing aid only hurts the poor: "But when they have once learned to depend on gifts, the parasitic habit of mind grows upon them, and it becomes hard to wake them back to self-support."

This attitude remained a powerful current in the American understanding of poverty up through the New Deal. But even FDR, the president who did more for the poor than any other paid homage to the traditional belief. "Dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber," he proclaimed in his proposal for the Works Progress Administration, which kept millions from poverty during the Depression.

Now, in the midst of the fallout from the Great Recession we are choosing to shunt them aside instead. The "blame the poor" explanation is going strong. According to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, an April 2009 Pew study showed 72 percent of those polled agreed that "poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs". Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh recently proclaimed that people on food stamps "buy Twinkies, Milk Duds, potato chips, six-packs of Bud, then head home to watch the NFL on one of two color TVs and turn off their cell phones, and that's poverty in the U.S." (Of course food stamps can't be used to buy alcohol; but this is Rush, so accuracy isn't a concern.)

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Demonizing the Poor for being Poor

By George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist
The St. Louis American
May 24, 2011

In the 1960s, we had the War on Poverty. In 2011, we're now seeing a War on People Who Live in Poverty.

One of the most callous examples of this occurred on - you guessed it - Fox News. Charles Payne, in a business segment, acknowledged that anti-poverty programs, food stamps, and unemployment insurance were "good programs", but then went on to attack recipients of those programs.

"I think the real narrative here, though, is that people aren't embarrassed by it," Payne said. "People aren't ashamed by it. In other words, there was a time when people were embarrassed to be on food stamps; there was a time when people were embarrassed to be on unemployment for six months, let alone demanding to be on for more than two years... No longer is the man being told to look in the mirror and cast down a judgment on himself; it's someone else's fault. So, food stamps, unemployment, all this stuff is something that they probably earned in some indirect way."

The host of the business show, Stuart Varney, called food stamps, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit "a form of welfare, income redistribution" benefiting people with an "entitlement mentality."

Varney and Payne, in effect, dismissed the findings by the National Bureau of Economic Research that showed that such programs keep 1 in 6 Americans out of poverty, mostly the elderly, the disabled, and the working poor. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, without those programs, the poverty rate would double.

As states continue to struggle to balance their budgets, as required by their constitutions, some state lawmakers are directing their anger at the poor.

In Kentucky, a Republican state representative has introduced a bill that, if passed, would require random drug testing for all adults receiving welfare, food stamps or Medicaid.

Rep. Lonnie Napier, of Lancaster, Ky., introduced Kentucky House Bill 208 that would immediately terminate benefits to recipients who fail a drug test. He told the Huffington Post, "This program is gonna save us a lot of money, because there's gonna be a lot of people showing up on illegal drugs and they will lose their assistance."

There is no evidence that people benefiting from anti-poverty programs are any more prone to becoming drug addicts than those who do not receive such aid. Professor Harold Pollack, of the University of Chicago, pointed out that Michigan implemented a mandatory drug testing program 10 years ago at three of its welfare offices. Of the 258 welfare applicants tested, only 21 tested positive for illegal drugs. Of the 21 failing, 18 tested positive for marijuana.

Newt Gingrich, who is testing the GOP presidential waters, has tried to indirectly inject race into his campaign. Speaking to a group of Republicans in his home state of Georgia, he said:

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Too easy to blame the victim

Karina Barrymore
Herald Sun
May 25, 2011

It's so easy to blame the victim. We seem to do it in many walks of life.

The children who are bullied at school should stand up for themselves. The person who lost their job should have worked harder. The investor who got ripped off shouldn't have been so greedy.

But two major reports released this week could prove an eye opener for many of the "blamers'' among us.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Stop blaming poor for economic ills

The Clarion-Ledger
July 8, 2011

A common explanation for the poor and the extent of poverty in our society focuses on the individual, as some recent letters state.

People are poor because they are lazy, lack motivation to get the proper education or skills, do not want to work, and so on. These are constant themes in our thinking about the poor and in some recent letters.

But the poor are not the same from one time period to another. Large proportions of people in our society cycle into and out of poverty throughout their lifetime and most do not stay either unemployed or poor for many years in a row.

There are times, like the present, when large numbers of people who were employed suddenly become unemployed for long periods of time. Does this mean laziness or that being a terrible employee are contagious? Certainly not.

Something larger than the individual is happening.

Our economic system does not create enough jobs for all who are able and willing to work, much like the game of musical chairs.

When playing this game with ten people but only eight chairs, every time the music stops two people will not have chairs. If we play this enough times each of the ten players is without a chair at least once.

Therefore it cannot be the characteristics of the individual players that determine their chairlessness. It is the structure of the game; more players than chairs.

It is the same with the economy; we have more workers than jobs. We have tried for several decades to change the characteristics of the poor based on our belief that individuals are the cause of their poverty. This belief makes programs/strategies to make the poor better people and better able to handle their affairs appealing instruments to minimize or eliminate poverty.

Our strong individualism and our social location prevent us from seeing the problem of poverty from a broader perspective.

We need to stop blaming the victim.

Jim Jones

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




With Record Number Of Americans Falling Into Poverty, Senator Rand Paul Says The Poor Are Getting Rich

by Tanya Somanader

Global Research, September 20, 2011

Census data revealed today that a record 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty in 2010. But in an aptly-timed hearing entitled "Is Poverty A Death Sentence," Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) flat out rejected the idea that poverty in the U.S is worrisome. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Health subcommittee, Paul offered a dissertation-length statement on how the correlation between poverty and death is only found in the Third World and to claim such a connection within the U.S. is nothing more than "socialism" and "tyranny."

Stating that "poor children today are healthier than middle-class adults a generation ago," he even blamed the poor for their own health problems, suggesting "behavioral factors" like a higher incidence of smoking, obesity, or weak family support structures as the only correlation between poverty and health.

Citing the deficit as a primary priority, Paul questioned whether federal low-income programs are "creating unnecessary and unhealthy dependence on government." He unequivocally declared that "poverty is not a state of permanence" and that "the rich are getting richer, but the poor are getting richer even faster."

PAUL: We also need to understand that poverty is not a state of permanence. When you look at people in the bottom 5th of the economic ladder — those at the bottom — only 5 percent are there after 16 years. People move up, the American dream does exist...The rich are getting richer, but the poor are getting richer even faster.

Watch it: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/09/13/318259/with-record-number-of-americans-falling-into-poverty-rand-paul-says-the-poor-are-getting-rich/

Summing up his thesis, Paul said, "Rather than bemoan or belabor something [poverty] that is really truly something that is overwhelmingly being treated in our country, we should maybe give more credit to the American system, the American dream, and give credit to what capitalism has done to eradicate poverty in this country."

First of all, the notion that the poor are getting richer faster than the rich requires an impressive level of ignorance. Currently, income inequality in the United States is greater than that of Pakistan and Ethiopia and higher than at any other time since the Great Depression. Indeed, thanks to exceedingly low tax rates, the rich are getting richer, with the richest one percent earning nearly 25 percent of the total income [.pdf] in the country.

Meanwhile, nearly one in three middle-class Americans is slipping down the income ladder as an adult. And with stagnant wages and the purchasing power of the minimum wage at a 51-year low, it's hard to see how suddenly "the poor are getting richer faster."

What's more, Paul's overwhelming deluge of pseudo-evidence to downplay the connection between poverty and poor health cannot shake incontrovertible facts. As the American Journal of Public Health found, deaths resulting from poverty, income inequality, and low social support each totaled more than homicide deaths in 2000.

Paul's claim that Americans now have a greater life expectancy still doesn't change the fact that low-income individuals can expect to live a shorter life due to poverty. Indeed, a report released at the hearing noted that "this is the first time in our history that children born in certain parts of the United States can expect to live shorter lives than their parents' generation."


^^  Something to keep in mind as you read the following:

-- "The budget [by Senator Rand Paul] provides two years of war funding, at the President's requested levels."

-- "The food stamp program and the child nutrition program" (cut)

-- "The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program" (eliminate)

-- "Affordable Housing Program" (eliminate)

Source: http://web.archive.org/web/20120523011347/http://campaignforliberty.com/materials/RandBudget.pdf
"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Let Them Eat Cake: 10 Examples Of How The Elite Are Savagely Mocking The Poor

The Economic Collapse
October 31, 2011

There is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard and making a lot of money, but there is something wrong with being completely arrogant and smug about it.  Today, many among the elite are savagely mocking the poor, and that is a huge mistake.  You shouldn't kick people when they are down.  There are tens of millions of Americans that are deeply frustrated about losing their homes, losing their jobs or barely being able to survive in this economy.  These frustrations have been one of the primary reasons for the rise of the Tea Party movement and the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  What these movements have in common is that people in both movements are sick and tired of the status quo and they want something to be done about our broken system.  There are huge numbers of families out there right now that have just about reached the end of their ropes.  Instead of showing compassion, many of the ultra-wealthy have decided that it is funny to mock the poor and those that are suffering.  So how are all of these protesters going to respond to the "let them eat cake" attitude of the Wall Street elite?  The protesters are being told that nothing that they can do will change anything and that they should be grateful for what Wall Street and the ultra-wealthy have done for them.  They are essentially being told that they should just shut up and go home.  So will we see these protest movements become discouraged and die down, or will the patronizing attitudes of so many among the elite just inflame them even further?

Right now, there really are two different "Americas".  In one America, the stock market is surging, corporate profits are soaring and BMW is operating factories at 110% of capacity just to keep up with demand.

In the other America, unemployment is rampant, millions of families are being kicked out of their homes and more than 45 million Americans are on food stamps.

There is more economic frustration in this country today than there has been at any other time since the Great Depression.  We are watching pressure build to very dangerous levels.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Santorum targets blacks in entitlement reform

By Lucy Madison
CBS News
January 2, 2012

At a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa on Sunday, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum singled out blacks as being recipients of assistance through federal benefit programs, telling a mostly-white audience he doesn't want to "make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money."

Answering a question about foreign influence on the U.S. economy, the former Pennsylvania senator went on to discuss the American entitlement system - which he argued is being used to politically exploit its beneficiaries.

"It just keeps expanding - I was in Indianola a few months ago and I was talking to someone who works in the department of public welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is going to get fined if they don't sign up more people under the Medicaid program," Santorum said. "They're just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That's what the bottom line is."

He added: "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."

"Right," responded one audience member, as another woman can be seen nodding.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Blaming the Poor for Their Own Poverty

Nicholas Kristof, Charles Murray and the "Culture of Poverty"

Weekend Edition February 10-12, 2012

Nicholas Kristof and Daniel Patrick Moynihan have much in common. Namely, they have constructed variations on the "culture of poverty" argument. In "The White Underclass," his recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, Kristof brings our nation's favorite blame game back: "In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan released a famous report warning of a crisis in African-American family structures, and many liberals at the time accused him of something close to racism. In retrospect, Moynihan was right to sound the alarms." Kristof does not call Moynihan a racist—no, he is merely something close to racist. This is far from comforting.

Kristof, like Moynihan, blames poor black families for their own struggles. Unlike Moynihan, he graciously extends this blame beyond black families and to white families as well—an update for these colorblind times. With Kristof's muscle, the "culture of poverty" argument is taking on the contemporary poor generally, purportedly without race in mind. He has a grudge against the poor because he thinks they do not get married enough, that they do not engage enough in nuclear family structures, that they use too many drugs, and they have the gall to think that capitalism might work for them, when it is obvious to everyone else that it does not: "But the glove factory closed, working-class jobs collapsed and unskilled laborers found themselves competing with immigrants." With the poor forced to compete with the invoked specter of immigrants, Kristof concludes that the "pathologies" discussed by Moynihan are real and relevant, and that we must build our social policies with this blame in mind.

Kristof's piece is inspired by a new book by Charles Murray, Coming Apart, which blames liberal social policy for these problems. On the surface, Kristof opposes many points in the book, but if Kristof's musings on the poor are any sign of how liberal policymakers think about such matters, then Murray has already won his point. The language is so drearily predictable. The working-class are men. There is a fixation on drug use as if it is solely a problem of the working-class and the poor. There is a framing of blacks and whites against immigrants. That this narrative about race and poverty reappears so easily and is so accessible tells us what we should already know: this argument is antagonistic to the poor and it is popular enough that liberals and conservatives can readily agree about it and move on to the debate over whether liberal or conservative social policy can fix the problem.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George



Does not the following article explain (among other things) the warped psychology of blame-the-victim firsters?



Now THAT Is Cold – 19 Signs That America Is Becoming A Very Heartless Place

The Economic Collapse
March 5, 2012

The economy is not the only thing that is wrong with America.  In order for a society to function smoothly, people need to be able to trust one another and be able to expect that most of their fellow citizens will behave in a somewhat civilized manner.  Unfortunately, we are starting to see the very fabric of our society slowly unravel all over the nation.  The truth is that America is becoming a very heartless place.  People simply do not care about one another the way that they used to in this country.  Of course there are many exceptions, but the reality is that millions of hearts are going cold from coast to coast.  In America today, we are more self-absorbed than ever, more self-centered than ever, and we are more isolated from others than ever.  Just think about the number of people that you personally interact with on a regular basis.  Unless you are involved with a very large organization such as a school or a church, it is probably a very limited number.  Our addiction to entertainment gives us the illusion of being connected to society, but the truth is that Americans spend less time personally interacting with one another than ever before.  Meanwhile, Americans are seemingly becoming more arrogant, more prideful, more angry, more brutal, more greedy and more addicted to pleasure than ever before.  When you combine millions of very cold hearts with an economy that is rapidly crumbling, that adds up to a whole lot of trouble in the years ahead.

Even government authorities are becoming heartless.  TSA agents and police officers are actually trained to "act tough" and to bark orders at us.  In the old days, you could reason with a police officer, but these days if you try to talk common sense with some of these thugs you will get tasered before you even realize what is happening.

The American people can see the deep corruption in Washington D.C. and throughout most of our other major institutions and they wonder why they should keep trying to do "the right thing".

If our leaders are selfish and heartless, then it is only natural that millions of average Americans will follow their examples.

In America today, we are taught to hate one another.  Democrats are taught to hate Republicans and Republicans are taught to hate Democrats.  We are a deeply divided nation and our hearts are getting colder with each passing year.

Parents are becoming more cruel, thieves are becoming more bold and thugs are becoming more brutal.  Hate, anger and frustration are fueling some really twisted behavior all over the country.  America is changing, and not for the better.

The following are 19 signs that America is becoming a very heartless place....


"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




World's richest woman says poor should have less fun, work harder

By David Lazarus
Los Angeles Times
August 30, 2012

Just in case you were beginning to think rich people were deeply misunderstood and that they feel the pain of those who are less fortunate, here's the world's wealthiest woman, Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart, with some helpful advice.

"If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain," she said in a magazine piece. "Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working."

Yeah, let them eat cake.

Rinehart made her money the old-fashioned way: She inherited it. Her family iron ore prospecting fortune of $30.1 billion makes her Australia's wealthiest person and the richest woman on the planet.



"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty

by Richard Murphy
Tax Research UK
March 3, 2013

A coalition of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church issued a report last week challenging the language used and stories told about poverty in the UK, not least amongst church members.  The report, entitled 'The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty' is timely, appropriate and reminder of what the role of churches is. It is their duty to have a bias to the poor.

The report concentrates on six myths about poverty. As they say, the myths challenged are not a comprehensive list but were chosen because of their prominence in public debate, and their widespread acceptance. I think they're powerful enough to share in full from their executive summary:

Myth 1: 'They' are lazy and don't want to work.

The most commonly cited cause of child poverty by churchgoers and the general public alike is that "their parents don't want to work". Yet the majority of children in poverty are from working households. In work poverty is now more common than out of work poverty. It is readily accepted that across the country there are families in which three generations have never worked. Examples of such families have not been found, and the evidence suggests it is unlikely we ever will. How did we come to believe these things?

Myth 2: 'They' are addicted to drink and drugs.

Churchgoers and the wider public cite addiction as the second most common cause of child poverty. While addiction is devastating for the families and communities touched by it, fewer than 4% of benefit claimants report any form of addiction. How did we come to believe this is such a big factor in the lives of the 13 million people who live in poverty in the UK today?

Myth 3: 'They' are not really poor – they just don't manage their money properly.

Nearly 60% of the UK population agrees that the poor could cope if only they handled their money properly. The experience of living on a low income is one of constant struggle to manage limited resources, with small events having serious consequences. Statistics show that the poorest spend their money carefully, limiting themselves to the essentials. How did we come to believe that poverty was caused by profligacy?

Myth 4: 'They' are on the fiddle

Over 80% of the UK population believe that "large numbers falsely claim benefits". Benefit fraud has decreased to historically low levels – the kind of levels that the tax system can only dream of. Less than 0.9% of the welfare budget is lost to fraud. The fact is that if everyone claimed and was paid correctly, the welfare system would cost around £18 billion more. So how did we come to see welfare claimants as fraudulent scroungers?

Myth 5: 'They' have an easy life

Over half the British public believes benefits are too high and churchgoers tend to agree. Government ministers speak of families opting for benefits as a lifestyle choice. Yet we know that benefits do not meet minimum income standards. They have halved in value relative to average incomes over the last 30 years. We know the ill and the unemployed are the people least satisfied and happy with life. Why have we come to believe that large numbers of families would choose this a lifestyle?

Myth 6: 'They' caused the deficit.

The proportion of our tax bills spent on welfare has remained stable for the last 20 years. It is ridiculous to argue, as some have, that increasing welfare spending is responsible for the current deficit. Public debt is a problem but why is it being laid at the feet of the poorest?

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Joyce McMillan: Myth of undeserving poor revisited

Visits to food banks have become increasingly necessary for many. Picture: Gett

Friday 5 April 2013

THE politics of 'us' and 'them' have pushed us backwards in time to join the heartless Victorians, writes Joyce McMillan.

Let us now praise famous women: or one not-so-famous woman, in the shape of Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland.

For during the last parliamentary recess, while other MP's went skiing, Helen Goodman decided to have a go at living on the "generous" state benefits provided to typical women of her own age – Helen is 55 – who are either unemployed, or have had to give up work through ill health.

After setting aside small sums to cover energy bills, water rates and the new "bedroom tax", Helen had £18 a week left for food.

After seven days of trying to survive on this, she found herself exhausted, cold, hungry, waking up ravenous during the night, and unable to imagine how anyone living on such a diet could possibly work up the energy to even look for a job in the current tough market, never mind also working 30 hours a week, unpaid, on "job experience".

Worst of all, by the last day of the week she had nothing left to eat at all. And if you think she must have been strangely incompetent to end up in such a situation, then try asking some of the 200,000 people in the UK who last year sought help from charitable food banks just how easy it is, in low-income Britain, to run out of money for food, if you want to keep a roof over your head.

Nor are food-bank users all unemployed. Increasingly, they include Britain's army of "working poor", people who are paid so little that they cannot meet the basic costs of living.

Now, of course, as soon as anyone points out the misery experienced by millions on these rock-bottom incomes, the letters pages and comment strands fill up with messages which are both full of bossy advice, and utterly bereft of real empathy.

"Buck up!" cry those voices. "Make soup! Get a vegetable box! Give up biscuits and crisps, and don't you dare have a drink!"

Then there are those who simply deny that such cases are typical. They prefer the image – all the easier to promote, after this week's shocking Philpott manslaughter case in Derby – of the benefit "scrounger" with multiple partners and a dozen children, lolling around in some publicly-funded mansion, even though in fact such cases are vanishingly rare, and account for a negligible proportion of benefit spending.

Those who repeat these arguments, though – and they are legion, across Britain – had better beware. For whether they are in the majority or not, they are beginning to sound exactly, and in detail, like the great right-wing bourgeoisie of the Victorian and Edwardian age; those generations of heartless and economically illiterate buffoons pitilessly satirised by great English writers from Dickens to JB Priestley, whose view of the poor was – and is – always the same.

In the first place, they say, the poor are exaggerating their plight. In the second place, their plight is all their own fault, and could be remedied by a little thrift and ingenuity. And in the third place, they have too many children; so many that the only answer is to punish the children along with their parents, in order to remove the "perverse incentives" that led to their birth.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Who's to blame for the middle class struggle?

By Tami Luhby
April 18, 2013

The number of people on food stamps and other public
assistance programs has surged in recent years. That angers
some in the middle class.

The middle class is feeling squeezed, and they have plenty of blame to throw around. Some are very quick to point the finger at the poor. In fact, they were more resentful of the poor than the rich, big business and government.

That sentiment comes through clearly in many of the emails and comments CNNMoney has received in response to articles about middle class struggles.

Marty Slover, 53, gets annoyed when he sees people living in subsidized housing that's nicer than what he can afford on his middle school teacher's salary. The Illinois resident added that he doesn't mind giving a helping hand to those who truly need it, but he's frustrated by those who could work but choose not to, especially when his taxes are funding their sloth.

"It's easy to get assistance and once you do, it's a way of life," said Slover, who says he has to watch every dollar. "We're working, working, paying all of these taxes and they are getting the benefits."

Another reader wrote that "we, middle class people, see people in the grocery stores buying things that we cannot afford, having phones that we cannot afford, and getting health care coverage that we lack ... all from money that is taken away from me."

Of course, not all middle class Americans think the poor are to blame for their own economic situation.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George



Whenever you hear a smug individual wax self-righteous about how the vast majority of all those who've grown "dependent" upon such things as food stamps and unemployment benefits are entirely (or at least primarily) to blame for their own jobless- or underemployed-induced poverty, keep in mind the following:



Unemployed Workers Still Far Outnumber Job Openings in Every Major Sector

By Heidi Shierholz
Economic Policy Institute
June 11, 2013

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed job openings falling by 118,000 in April to 3.8 million. Job openings have improved very little over the last year and remain very depressed. In 2007, there were 4.5 million job openings each month, so April's level of 3.8 million is more than 16 percent below its prerecession level.

The job openings data are extremely useful for diagnosing what's behind our sustained high unemployment. In today's economy, unemployed workers far outnumber job openings in every sector, as shown in Figure A. This demonstrates that the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers—and not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.

In particular, there have recently been stories (for example, here) of worker shortages in construction. While there may be some construction firms in some places that cannot find the workers they need, the data show that this is in no way a prevalent phenomenon—unemployed construction workers outnumber job openings in construction by nearly 12-to-1. In construction as well as in every major industry, it is work that our labor market lacks, not the right workers.

Hires increased in April by almost 200,000 to 4.4 million, but this was just a partial reversal of a drop in March. Hires are no higher than they were last spring and remain nearly 15 percent below their average 2007 level.

Layoffs held roughly steady in April (-33,000). Layoffs are not currently the primary concern in the labor market, having been at prerecession levels since early 2011 (at around 1.7 million layoffs per month). However, given the lack of hiring, the consequences for workers of being laid off are far worse now than before the recession began; workers are far less likely to find a new job within a reasonable timeframe, particularly one that pays as much as the job they lost.

Voluntary quits increased by 152,000 in April. More voluntary quits generally signals good news in the labor market, since it means workers are seeing stronger outside job opportunities. However, April's increase was just a partial reversal of a drop in March. Voluntary quits are still very depressed, at 22 percent below their 2007 level.

In April, the number of job seekers, which fell by 83,000 from March, stood at 11.7 million (unemployment data are from the Current Population Survey and can be found here). However, given the drop in job openings, the "job-seekers ratio"—the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings— increased in April to 3.1-to-1 from a revised 3.0-to-1 in March.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Scapegoating the Poor

by joelal
Daily Kos
June 21, 2013

I recently read a Facebook post that asked what facet of today's life would be the most difficult to explain to someone from the Fifties. The typical responses from folks, predictably, had something to do with the sweeping technological changes that have occurred. And to be sure, the idea of having iPads, social media and even microwave ovens would be inconceivable to people who lived in a world where television sets were tuned to 'Uncle Miltie' every week. Overlooked, however, among the answers was today's political mood, which I believe has taken an almost unrecognizable shift to the right during the last six decades.

You might be scratching your head at this moment wondering how I can justify such a claim. After all, longstanding racism with segregated schools and unfair voting practices remained the norm during the Fifties. The decade also produced unbridled Cold War paranoia that climaxed with the Communist witch hunts conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. It was also a time of enormous conformity where mainstream society frowned upon overt individualistic expression and thought.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ITRIb25noo (1950's Conformity)

Nevertheless, as seemingly unenlightened as the Fifties were, today's political climate tops those times in dysfunctional obstinacy and downright cruelty.

The clear distinction between then and now is how the general attitude about poverty has shifted away from benign ignorance to contempt. Being poor today has become a crime literally in some instances. After performing an internet news search using the words 'being poor is a crime', I came across several stories, all dated within the last month. The most recent one reveals how two Texas teenage boys had to perform community service for school tardiness, which came about because their families couldn't afford to buy a working car to get them to school on time.

Moreover, it seems that in many American cities, local businesses and governments have begun a 'get-tough approach' with the homeless, encouraging police to issue more frequent arrests for heinous crimes like sleeping in public, loitering, littering and public urination. It seems wickedly peculiar that many people in the wealthiest country in the world treat its stray animals better than their fellow citizens who are down-and-out.
This intolerance of the poor is becoming increasingly reflected in government policies aimed at battling the so-called 'debt' crisis as many right-wingers politicos have decided to preach the claim that entitlement programs have transformed the U.S. into a nation of takers. In the name of austerity, governments at the federal, state and local level have gone out of their way to slash programs aimed specifically at helping the poor while leaving corporate welfare policies intact. While providing unnecessary tax breaks for defense contractors and massive subsidies to wealthy farmers, our political leaders seem to be competing to see who can introduce the most callous measures that ensure that the poor endure a disproportionate share of sacrifice. This reality couldn't have been more evident than on Thursday when some conservative congressional lawmakers rejected this year's farm bill because its proposed $20-billion-dollar food stamp funding cut DIDN'T GO FAR ENOUGH! Until recently, Congress routinely passed farm bills, which are considered bipartisan pieces of pork.

Such blatant inhumanity wasn't evident back during 1950s. Yes, some conservatives called for rolling back the New Deal. But, most Republicans, including President Eisenhower, decided to continue carrying out most of FDR's popular and effective programs. In fact, Ike helped initiate several new, large-scale public works programs including the Interstate Highway System.

This is not to say that America embraced the poor during this relatively affluent period. As a political issue, poverty didn't really take on any emphasis until the next decade when Lyndon Johnson initiated the 'Great Society' and the 'War on Poverty'. Nevertheless, neglecting the poor is quite a far cry from demonizing and punishing them.
"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Greg Kaufman: America's Poor Are Demonized To Justify Huge Cuts in Gov't Prgrams

By Bill Moyers, Greg Kaufmann
June 28, 2013

In the following interview with Bill Moyers, Greg Kaufmann, poverty correspondent for The Nation, says the poor in America are stereotyped and demonized in an effort to justify huge cuts in food stamps and other crucial programs for low-income Americans.

"People are working and they're not getting paid enough to feed their families, pay their utilities, pay for their housing, pay for the healthcare... if you're not paying people enough to pay for the basics, they're going to need help getting food," Kaufmann tells Moyers. "There are a lot of corporations that want to be involved in the fight against hunger. The best thing they can do is get on board for fair wages."

The following is the transcript of an interview that originally appeared on BillMoyers.com:


Bill Moyers: Food stamps were at the core of the monster farm bill that went down to defeat in the House of Representatives last week. That bill would have cut food stamps by some $20 billion over 10 years, but that was too little for House Republicans and too much for House Democrats, although Senate Democrats had already agreed to cuts of more than $4 billion.

Here to talk about food stamps and the farm bill is a journalist whose beat is hunger, politics, and policy. Greg Kaufmann is poverty correspondent for "The Nation" magazine and a contributor to our website, BillMoyers.com. He's also an advisor to the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, founded by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich and the Institute for Policy Studies. Greg Kaufman, welcome.

Greg Kaufmann: Great to be with you, Bill.

Bill Moyers: There are almost 48 million people using food stamps a day, and over recent years that's a 70 percent increase. What does your own reporting tell you about why?

Greg Kaufmann: Well, the biggest reason, I think, is the proliferation of low-wage work. People are working and they're not getting paid enough to feed their families, pay their utilities and pay for their housing, pay for the healthcare. We had 28 percent of workers in 2011 made wages that were less than the poverty line. Poverty wages.

Fifty percent of the jobs in this country make less than $34,000 a year. Twenty-five percent make less than the poverty line for a family of four, which is $23,000 a year. So, if you're not paying people enough to pay for the basics, they're going to need help getting food.

And food stamps expanded because we went through the greatest the worst recession since the Great Depression. And it did what it's supposed to do. And now, you know, mostly Republicans are saying, "Why are there so many people on food stamps?" You know, they're claiming the recession's over, but we know that most people on food stamps are, if they're getting work, it's low-wage work that doesn't pay enough to pay for food.

Bill Moyers: The farm bill that failed in Congress last week would've spent $743.9 billion on food stamps and nutrition over the next ten years. Republicans wanted to cut that by some $20 billion over the same period, ten years. Given that we're spending $75 to $78 billion a year now on food stamps, do they have a case?

Greg Kaufmann: Well, look, do they make a point that we're spending too much? I mean, if they're comfortable saying two million people should be thrown off food stamps, 200,000 low-income children should not have access to meals, to their meals in school. Hey, they can make that argument all they want. I think it's out of sync with the values of this country.

Bill Moyers: Here is what Representative Steve King of Iowa said in the debate on the floor at the time the farm bill was up for consideration. Quote, "When we see the expansion of the dependency class in America, and you add this to the 79 other means-tested welfare programs that we have in the United States, each time you add another brick to that wall it's a barrier to people that might go out and succeed." What does your own reporting find?

Greg Kaufmann: Boy, I wish he would take a look at this great study done just in November of 2012, that was released. Dr. Hilary Hoynes at the University of California Davis and her colleagues looked at this issue of self-reliance and food stamps.

They looked at the rollout of food stamps county by county and adults who were born between 1956 and '81 who were born in disadvantaged families defined as parents not having a high school diploma. And they looked at those people in their adult outcomes who had had access to food stamps when they were young or even in utero.

And they found that the adults, all the adults had significant reductions in metabolic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure. And even more remarkable to me was women in particular had higher earnings, higher income, higher education attainment and less reliance on welfare assistance in general.

All these years these guys have been saying it's promoting dependence, and it's been building self-reliance. I wish that the congressman from Iowa would take a look at that study.

Bill Moyers: You watched the debate over the farm bill. You followed it very closely. What did you-- summarize it for me. What was going on there?

Greg Kaufmann: You know, with some exceptions of people who are committed to telling the truth, we heard that this was about the deficit. But food stamps, over the next ten years, are projected to be 1.7 percent of federal spending according to the Congressional Budget Office. We heard this was about fraud, but less than one cent on the dollar of food stamp spending is lost to fraud, less than one cent on the dollar.

And we heard fraud from the chairwoman Senator Stabenow, Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. We heard a lot about this was, you know, rural districts versus urban districts and welfare on the back of farmers. But you know what? The truth is Food Research and Action Center has shown that the percentage of households in rural districts participating in food stamps is the same as the percentage of households in urban districts.

So my big takeaway is that if we don't insist on a fact-based discussion, these are the kinds of absurdities that we're going to hear. And we're going to get bad bills. You mentioned the House bill, but even the Democratic bill started with $4 billion in cuts. Senator Gillibrand had a good amendment, restoring those cuts which she would pay for by reducing the profit that the government guarantees to crop insurance companies. They guarantee a 14 percent profit. She said, "Let's do 12 percent and not do the food stamp cuts." Makes sense. Was trounced by Democrats who didn't want to stand up to the chairwoman and maybe lose their projects in the final farm bill.

Bill Moyers: And they weren't eager to stand up to agribusiness, either, were they? The big factory farms? Weren't there still a lot of subsidies in that bill for big farms?

Greg Kaufmann: Yeah, what we saw in A Place at the Table in terms of the agribusiness subsidies was consistent in this farm bill, too. And if you look at the donations and I think some other reporters have done this and I know the Environment Working Group has worked on this if you look at the political contributions in the House ag committees to both Democrats and Republicans, and those businesses are giving big bucks to those campaigns.

Bill Moyers: What's the one most important thing you'd like for us to know about the issue as it plays out in Congress? What's going on up there when they're debating the farm bill and food stamps?

Greg Kaufmann: Well, they're catering to the most powerful interests, just like seems like with pretty much all legislation. You mentioned the agribusiness interests, the crop insurance interests. We aren't talking about hunger and what does it mean in this country to commit to ending hunger.

Bill Moyers: Why did you take this beat on as a commitment?

Greg Kaufmann: Well, on a personal level, I think I had worked for a Boys and Girls Club in Ohio for a few years and got to know so many of the families there didn't know what to expect. But all the things I've been describing about how hard people work, I mean, that was the first thing that hit me, how hard they work two jobs, how they hard they work to arrange child care, how hard they work to get their kids to a safe place. And I got tired of sort of annual articles on poverty -- not at "The Nation," "The Nation" has always been committed to covering it.

But when the new poverty statistics would come out, you'd see screaming headlines, "Record Poverty," oh my god, poverty, poverty. Very few of the articles actually interviewed people who were in poverty. You know, the fact that over one in three Americans, over 100 million Americans are living at just twice the poverty level, so just—

Bill Moyers: Which is about what?

Greg Kaufmann: Less than $36,000 for a family of three. That's crazy. I mean, because we have poverty defined at, you know, at such a low level, $18,000 for a family of three. But really, if you think about poverty as access to the basics that we, that everybody needs food, housing, healthcare, a decent job, you know, education, you know, we know it takes a lot more than that.

Bill Moyers: What's your own sense of why this is the case, this vast inequality in a country as rich as ours? I mean, what does this say to you, the richest 400 people on the "Forbes" list made more from the stock market gains last year than the total amount of the food, housing and education budgets combined. I mean, the Walmart corporation made $17 billion last year, $17 billion.

Greg Kaufmann: Right.

Bill Moyers: Paying its workers so little, they have to use government programs to get by. In other words taxpayers are subsidizing Walmart's--

Greg Kaufmann: Right.

Bill Moyers: —low-income jobs.

Greg Kaufmann: Yeah. I mean, I think not having organized labor plays a huge role in that, the declining unionization rate. I think, yeah, I mean, Walmart's a great example. Paying employees, helping them sign up for food stamps. I mean, I'm glad that people can get food stamps but, like, why not just pay a wage? I mean, there are a lot of corporations that are, you know, want to be involved in the fight against hunger. And the best thing they can do is get on board for fair wages.

So, yeah, I think there has been turning away from real people and what they're experiencing in this country. That's why I was so disappointed as crazy as the House farm bill was, the fact that the Democrats started with a $4.1 billion cut almost made me angrier, because they're supposed to be the party that's in touch with people's real experiences.

Bill Moyers: What do you mean?

Greg Kaufmann: Well, like, why aren't they talking about that food stamps create nine dollars of economic activity for every five dollars in spending? Why aren't they talking about what Dr. Chilton talks about, the benefits socially, emotionally, cognitively, physically that's documented for children, and we care so much about children and what that means for their future opportunities. I mean, the Democrats are supposed to be connected to the experiences of ordinary Americans. And when you start with this defensive wimpy posture of, "Oh, okay, we'll cut this much," instead of fighting for what you believe in, we're in trouble.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




The Charitable-Industrial Complex

By Peter Buffett
The New York Times
July 26, 2013

I HAD spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to "save the day" in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.

Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex.

But now I think something even more damaging is going on.

Because of who my father is, I've been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It's a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

Philanthropy has become the "it" vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to "give back." It's what I would call "conscience laundering" — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, "what's the R.O.I.?" when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I'm going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn't all this just feed the beast?

I'm really not calling for an end to capitalism; I'm calling for humanism.

Often I hear people say, "if only they had what we have" (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no "charitable" (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.

"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George



"In speaking of the practical measures for the improvement of the condition of labor which your Holiness suggests, I have not mentioned what you place much stress upon — charity. But there is nothing practical in such recommendations as a cure for poverty, nor will any one so consider them. If it were possible for the giving of alms to abolish poverty there would be no poverty in Christendom.

"Charity is indeed a noble and beautiful virtue, grateful to man and approved by God. But charity must be built on justice. It cannot supersede justice.

"What is wrong with the condition of labor through the Christian world is that labor is robbed. And while you justify the continuance of that robbery it is idle to urge charity. To do so — to commend charity as a substitute for justice, is indeed something akin in essence to those heresies, condemned by your predecessors, that taught that the gospel had superseded the law, and that the love of God exempted men from moral obligations.

"All that charity can do where injustice exists is here and there to mollify somewhat the effects of injustice. It cannot cure them. Nor is even what little it can do to mollify the effects of injustice without evil. For what may be called the superimposed, and in this sense, secondary virtues, work evil where the fundamental or primary virtues are absent. Thus sobriety is a virtue and diligence is a virtue. But a sober and diligent thief is all the more dangerous. Thus patience is a virtue. But patience under wrong is the condoning of wrong. Thus it is a virtue to seek knowledge and to endeavor to cultivate the mental powers. But the wicked man becomes more capable of evil by reason of his intelligence. Devils we always think of as intelligent.

"And thus that pseudo-charity that discards and denies justice works evil. On the one side, it demoralizes its recipients, outraging that human dignity which as you say 'God himself treats with reverence,' and turning into beggars and paupers men who to become self-supporting, self-respecting citizens need only the restitution of what God has given them. On the other side, it acts as an anodyne to the consciences of those who are living on the robbery of their fellows, and fosters that moral delusion and spiritual pride that Christ doubtless had in mind when he said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. For it leads men steeped in injustice, and using their money and their influence to bolster up injustice, to think that in giving alms they are doing something more than their duty toward man and deserve to be very well thought of by God, and in a vague way to attribute to their own goodness what really belongs to God's goodness. For consider: Who is the All-Provider? Who is it that as you say, 'owes to man a storehouse that shall never fail,' and which 'he finds only in the inexhaustible fertility of the earth.' Is it not God? And when, therefore, men, deprived of the bounty of their God, are made dependent on the bounty of their fellow-creatures, are not these creatures, as it were, put in the place of God, to take credit to themselves for paying obligations that you yourself say God owes?

"But worse perhaps than all else is the way in which this substituting of vague injunctions to charity for the clear-cut demands of justice opens an easy means for the professed teachers of the Christian religion of all branches and communions to placate Mammon while persuading themselves that they are serving God. Had the English clergy not subordinated the teaching of justice to the teaching of charity — to go no further in illustrating a principle of which the whole history of Christendom from Constantine's time to our own is witness — the Tudor tyranny would never have arisen, and the separation of the church been averted; had the clergy of France never substituted charity for justice, the monstrous iniquities of the ancient régime would never have brought the horrors of the Great Revolution; and in my own country had those who should have preached justice not satisfied themselves with preaching kindness, chattel slavery could never have demanded the holocaust of our civil war.

"No, your Holiness; as faith without works is dead, as men cannot give to God his due while denying to their fellows the rights he gave them, so charity unsupported by justice can do nothing to solve the problem of the existing condition of labor."

-- Henry George, The Condition of Labor, pp. 92-95
"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George



For years I've been imploring the Austrian- and Chicago School-dominated "Right" to stop arrogantly and mindlessly blaming the poor for their own poverty, and to stop waxing hysterical about the figurative speck that's in the collective eye of social welfare recipients while directing only a small fraction (if even that much) of that same moral outrage at the comparative 20-ft beam that's in the collective eye of the recipients of corporate welfare (Wall Street mega-banks, derivatives speculators and war profiteers, of course, being among the top recipients).


Because all this does is give "left cover" to the corporate fascist agenda of Wall Street Democrats like Barack Obama, Jim Himes and Nancy Pelosi, thereby strengthening them politically.

Unfortunately, and much to the giddy delight of Obama and the left-wing reactionaries who serve him, demonizing food stamp recipients all day -- and painting tens of millions of struggling Americans with the same stereotypical brush -- is apparently so much fun, and so perversely intoxicating to the ego, that right-wing reactionaries simply can't help themselves. They just can't resist giving Wall Street Democrats still more convenient foil against which to define themselves in the eyes of the bottom "47%."

The following is merely the latest example of this disgraceful, self-discrediting and ultimately self-defeating trend...



Fox's Shameless Misrepresentation Of SNAP Recipients

Baier: "When A Safety Net Becomes A Hammock"

Samantha Wyatt
Media Matters
August 9, 2013

In an attempt to make a surfing freeloader the face of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, a Fox News special profiled Jason Greenslate, "a blissfully jobless California surfer" who has taken advantage of SNAP benefits. In reality, Greenslate bears no resemblance to the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients, many of whom are elderly, children, or rely on the program for a short time while looking for work.

Prior to its August 9 airing, Fox News hyped the special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge," on Fox News Insider, FoxNews.com, and several of its daytime shows. Each preview focused on Jason Greenslate, a freeloading surfer who Fox correspondent John Roberts interviewed in Southern California. FoxNews.com described Greenslate at length in an article that teased the "new documentary":

    The Fox News Reporting documentary profiles, among others, a California surfer and aspiring musician named Jason Greenslate. Greenslate shows how he supports his beach-bum lifestyle with food stamps, while dismissing the idea of holding down a regular, steady job.

    "It's not that I don't want a job, I don't want a boss. I don't want someone telling me what to do.  I'm gonna live my own life," Greenslate tells Fox News' John Roberts. "This is the way I want to live. And I don't really see anything changing. I got the card. It's $200. That's it."

As promised, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" labeled Greenslate "the new face of food stamps," devoting two full segments to his lifestyle in a shameless attempt to characterize SNAP recipients as freeloaders.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, the fraud and waste rate in SNAP is roughly 1 percent, contrary to recent Fox claims that the program is rife with fraud.

Unlike Greenslate, 41 percent of food stamp recipients live "in a household with earnings," and use SNAP benefits to supplement their primary source of income. Furthermore, the USDA reports that most food stamp recipients stay in the program for only a short period of time:

    Half of all new SNAP participants received benefits for 10 months or less in the mid 2000s, up from 8 months in the early 2000s. Single parent families and elderly individuals tended to stay in the program longer than did working poor individuals, childless adults without disabilities, and noncitizens. Seventy-four percent of new participants left the program within two years. This is an increase from 71 percent in the early 1990s.

Fox's attempt to demonize food stamp recipients as a caricature of willful dependency ignores the fact that SNAP kept 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011, many of whom are children or the elderly. Unlike Greenslate, the majority of these individuals relied on the program not because of laziness, but necessity.


"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George




Fox News Blatantly Lies About Food Stamps in This Ridiculous Faux-Documentary

by Shana Mansbach
August 12, 2013

Fox News and a handful of other conservative outlets attempted to rile up their audiences this week when they reported on Jason Greenslate, San Diego beach bum and supposed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) abuser. Greenslate, interviewed as part of a Fox documentary entitled The Great Food Stamp Binge, is quoted as bragging about his lackadaisical lifestyle, full of lobster dinners and shameless flirting, all while living on the government's tab. It was an underhanded gambit, designed to whip up anti-food-stamp fervor, and a quick look into the details shows that it wildly misrepresents the plight of needy Americans.

Fox alleges that the SNAP program is full of examples like Greenslate, who are content with living off handouts from the government. In reality, 76% of households receiving SNAP benefits include children, the elderly, and disabled individuals. 91% of benefits are paid out to families living at or below the federal poverty line ($19,530 for a family of three). Finally, the average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744, with countable resources (such as a bank account) of only $331. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of food stamp beneficiaries are not free riders or idle individuals, as Fox would have its audience believe.

Watch part of the documentary below:


The news stories go on to argue that food stamp participation has increased about 13% since 2008, costing taxpayers millions. What they fail to acknowledge is that this increase follows the Great Recession of 2009 in which the number of unemployed Americans grew by 94% from 2007 to 2011. SNAP is designed to be responsive to changes in need; the number of beneficiaries will rise in times of financial hardship and fall in times of economic prosperity. As the economy begins its slow recovery, SNAP enrollment growth has already slowed and is predicted to fall beginning 2015. And as the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has repeatedly stressed, SNAP does not contribute to the nation's long-term budget problems.

Given these statistics, Greenslate's story seems to be a significant anomaly. Looking closer, however, we see that it's simply the result of bad reporting. Greenslate is depicted as living a highly luxurious lifestyle — on a typical day, he'll "wake up, go down to the beach, hang out with my friends, hit on some chicks, start drinking" — but the numbers don't add up. He reports receiving benefits of $200 a month, which works out to $6.66 a day, or $2.22. And since that the cost of living in San Diego is the ninth highest in the nation, it seems highly improbable that Greenslate is really living the life he says he is based on food stamps alone.

This sensationalized story represents a dishonest attempt to portray food stamp recipients as lazy and deceitful. It distracts from the serious plights of the 78 million Americans who don't have secure access to food. SNAP has been invaluable, keeping 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011, but the reality is that it doesn't go far enough. The average monthly benefit provides a paltry $1.50 per meal, and nearly one third of food-insecure individuals are not eligible for any federal food assistance at all. Before demonizing the needy, Fox and its affiliates should start looking at the numbers and get the story right.
"Abolish all taxation save that upon land values." -- Henry George